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New permaculture orchard/market garden need advice  RSS feed

 
Scott Sigurdson
Posts: 6
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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Hi, this is my first post on this forum. I wasn't sure if this should go here or in soil. My fiancé and I have just purchased a parcel of farmland that we intend to convert to a polyculture orchard berry farm over the next two years. I am looking for advice on the best way of getting the soil in shape to plant the orchard next spring, so we have a year to do this. Here are the vitals

The most recent use (last 3-5years) of this land has been to grow hay. It has not been fertilized for 5 years and has not been plowed so we expect a hay crop to sprout and begin growing soon ...
Soil type in high ground 2-3m elevation above river: sandy/silt loam (45%sand, 45%silt, 10%clay)
Soil type in low ground 0-2m elevation along river: silt loam (60%silt, 30%sand, 10%clay)
Organic content: 5.8%
Soil analysis/reccomndations for orchard call for 100lbs K/acre and 20lbs P/acre + whatever N the specific crops call for. (the micro nutrient levels looks pretty good)
There is a lot of dairy farming nearby so manure may be readily available.

My initial thoughts are to add key line swales to the high ground to retain moisture, and add drainage tiles in the low ground. There will be a dedicated market garden area, but would also like to intercrop until the trees are more mature.

I would like to get a cover crop of clovers down to up the nitrogen content, but don't want to cultivate to deal with the hay beforehand. Am not adverse to the hay per say, but would also like add other plants that can improve the soil texture and break it up and attract beneficial insects and create habitat for them. Should I seed the clover/wild flower into the hay, or should the hay be cultivated/plowed first (seems wrong somehow).

When it comes time to plant the fruit trees (200/acre), again how deal with the hay so it does not compete, but helps support a healthy diversity? Should the planting rows be rototilled, or just dig individual holes and mulch heavily around them after planting, mowing the the rows in some kind of rotation to create mulch and allow air movement while retaining habitat.

For the rows that will be market garden, how would you approach the same questions, and also the question of removing the hay/cover crops when it is time put in vegetable crops. Torn between rototilling and laying down tarps or agrofabric to smother the vegetation beforehand, but very open to other suggestions

Anyways it all seems like a very overwhelming proposition given that I also have a house and barn to build before planting next season too so would appreciate any informed advice on how and where to begin, as well as ideas how to meet nutrient recommendations for K and P.

Thanks in advance
 
Pia Jensen
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Scott Sigurdson wrote:

When it comes time to plant the fruit trees (200/acre), again how deal with the hay so it does not compete, but helps support a healthy diversity? Should the planting rows be rototilled, or just dig individual holes and mulch heavily around them after planting, mowing the the rows in some kind of rotation to create mulch and allow air movement while retaining habitat.

For the rows that will be market garden, how would you approach the same questions, and also the question of removing the hay/cover crops when it is time put in vegetable crops. Torn between rototilling and laying down tarps or agrofabric to smother the vegetation beforehand, but very open to other suggestions


I'm relatively new to permies.com forum but, being here, I found that a technique I've used before is documented positive influence, in many conditions, using a variety of designs, small to large. I'm using it, Hugelkultur, in all my new planting plans. Search the forum for hugelkultur and go to richsoil.com if you have access to mass - trees, greens, straw, compost, and shovels or buckets - it's very feasible

... hugelkultur rows contouring your crops to feed orchard, provide green manure, improve/enrich soil, improve hydrology...and, grow loads of food on the hugel -not machine favorable at harvest, but...
 
Scott Sigurdson
Posts: 6
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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Thanks for the reply Pia, but that would amount to over 5km of mounds, the volume of material that would need to be trucked in for this make it prohibitive. At the moment this is an open field with nothing but hay on it.
 
Pia Jensen
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Scott Sigurdson wrote:Thanks for the reply Pia, but that would amount to over 5km of mounds, the volume of material that would need to be trucked in for this make it prohibitive. At the moment this is an open field with nothing but hay on it.


yep! I see large crop management with few resources is problematic. I think about the greening the desert project an hold out hope there are ways to use hugelkultur with most crops
 
John Wolfram
Posts: 655
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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My number one piece of advice would be:
This year, plant a small scale version of the orchard you plan on planting next year.
The very first permaculture principle is "observe and interact" and you will learn a huge amount about the property by observing a small scale version of the orchard for a year.
 
Ann Torrence
steward
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Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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bee books chicken duck goat trees
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Scott, Welcome to Permies!

My first question was, what's kind of hay?

When we planted our orchard (500 trees over a 3 years, cider trees are hard to source), we just augered 12" wide holes, no effort to remove the mixed grass/alfala beyond the hole. We chop and drop the alleys a few times over the summer. We mixed a pound of rock phosphate and a pound of Azomite into each planting hole, per Michael Phillips recommendation. Also, everything inoculated with Bio-Organics mycorrhizal root dip. Our potassium levels measured low, but I haven't done anything to deal with that yet. I do use Phillips holistic spraying regime in the spring which has kelp in it, a good source of potassium. Our trees are growing very well.

We are slowly getting some clovers to take, to go along with the alfalfa for nitrogen. I'm growing out plants for the understory now. It takes a lot of plants to guild all those trees. Our climate is extremely arid, so if it isn't watered, it won't grow, so doing it in stages as we can manage the water resource. BTW, my observations conflict with the standard advice that grass competes with the trees for moisture. Here it seems the grass protects the soil from evaporation. The ag school guys would disagree but I know what I see.

Now for your case, in a completely different climate. If it were me, I'd see if I could get the ground lightly harrowed, not enough to kill the hay but to get some ground contact for the seeds, like the implement used to drag manure. Then spread out some clover seeds, wildflower seed can't hurt. Chop and drop the field a few times over the season but otherwise do very little and get my house built and my deer fencing sorted. I'll leave the market gardening part to someone else, but I personally would use the mechanical tillage once to achieve an end. If you could get that done this season and rotate through some cover crops, , that might give you a head start for next season.

Where are you getting your trees?

 
Scott Sigurdson
Posts: 6
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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Thanks John

Hi Ann,
yes we're up in Ontario, so water isn't much of an issue most of the time. Not sure what kind of hay, it hasn't come up yet, will have a word with the fellow who rented it previously though to see. I like this approach, the light touch. I also like the spot application of amendments rather than broadcasting them, initially anyways. The chop n drop strikes me as sound as well. Curious though, if the well established hay might not choke out the clover and wild flower? Or would the light harrowing be enough to beat it down a bit.

The trees will come from a variety of sources, but the most noteworthy among them is a small outfit in Ontario called Siloam Orchards (http://www.siloamorchards.com) who have an outstanding variety of disease resistant, heritage, cider and red fleshed cultivars to choose from. Nothing mainstream in their selection at all, which is refreshing, although we will probably plant out a few of the more common cultivars like Liberty, Enterprise and Empire so we have a few names folk will recognize. But on the whole disease resistance will be one of the major selection criteria.

 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
111
bee books chicken duck goat trees
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This is probably not necessary, but are you familiar with Stefan Sobkowiak and his video The Permaculture Orchard? He's up in your neck of the woods.

Do you have your trees ordered yet? I had to get mine custom grafted to get what I wanted.
 
Scott Sigurdson
Posts: 6
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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Yes, I've got a copy of his video that I've watched a couple times now. I like most of what he has done, except for the plastic mulch. Have also been influenced to some extent by Fukuoko's philosophy. I am just sorting my order sorted right now, and like you a large part of it will be custom grafted, the nursery is on my case to get a move on ...
 
We can walk to school together. And we can both read this tiny ad:
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